Skip to main content

tv   First Ladies Influence Image  CSPAN  March 4, 2013 9:00pm-10:30pm EST

9:00 pm
that is followed by paul volcker and cbo director at the national association of business economics annual conference. >> she would grow to be the equal of john advance as confidante and dearest friend. she revealed herself as an 18th- century woman, but her concerns sound very modern to us today. >> john and abigail adams have become so prominent because of these collection of papers. >> the story of abigail adams and the revolutionary war is the story of sacrifice, commitment to country.
9:01 pm
she rose to the occasion. >> she was opposed to slavery. >> she was quiet behind-the- scenes spread sheet you cannot rule without including what women want. >> the backdrop to the occupancy of the white house is one of political -- personal tragedy. >> she is worried about her husband and offenses against slander. she is concerned about her children, their upbringing, their education. >> she could hold her own with anybody. she was her husband's equal. >> born in 1744, at the dell smith married john adams at age 19. they had five children together, including a future president. ahead of her time in many ways
9:02 pm
she pence this to our has been during the american revolution. all history at every age exhibits instances of patriotic fervor to = the most heroic. good evening and welcome to "first lady's." we will be learning more about abigail adams. the second first lady of the united states. we have two guests. bringing their ridings to those public. the author of numerous books. jim taylor is the editor-in- chief of the adams papers. thank you to both of you. abigail adams was the wife of
9:03 pm
the second president and a mother of another president earned her place in history. you say that she is an historical figure in her own right. >> she left us letters and we have a record of for life. the letters are not ordinary. they are extraordinary. they are wonderfully written and there are many of them. abigail was a letter writer at a time when women could not publish for publication. her letters became per outlet and they are the best record behalf of women's role and the american revolution. cook's last week -- >> last week, we learned that martha washington burned all of her letters. only two of them remain. we have the opposite here.
9:04 pm
thousands of them. explain the scope of the trove of materials that you have to work with as scholars to the writings of the adams family. >> the addams family gave to the massachusetts historical society of collection. we have never counted them individually, but probably 70,000 plus documents. for abigail and john, there are about 1170 letters they exchanged over the years. >> how frequently did they write to one another? >> depended. when they were to gather, we do not have any letters after 1801. after john leave the white house, they're together almost all the time.
9:05 pm
they wrote and least once a week and sometimes twice a week. cut this program is an attractive one, which makes it more enjoyable. in about 50 minutes, we will be taking your telephone calls. we will put the numbers on the screen. if you go to twitter, we will include some of your tweets. you can also go to facebook and we posted a spot for you can send questions. i will start with a facebook comment. "she looks like a tough cookie." >> ", my goodness. yes and no. one of the things that is important to understand is that she started out as a naive young woman whose expectations were to
9:06 pm
have a normal life like a mother deaid. the revolution disrupted that. she used the opportunities of this disruption in her life to grow as a person. she begins as a naive young woman and she does become a very sophisticated world league opinionated kind women. >> this is one of the things that makes him the most attractive. a good character in a novel develops over time. she develops. >> what were her roots? where was she born? what was her upbringing such that she became a woman of letters? >> she was the daughter of the minister, reverend william smith. her mother attended -- the
9:07 pm
political world of new england. her mother's family were norton's and quincy's. she grew up in a household that was quite middle-class for that time and had two sisters and one brother. she was by all reports -- she was educated at home by her mother. she ran at random in her father's library. >> when did she become political? >> i am trying to think. very early on when john is at
9:08 pm
the continental congress, she wants the newspapers. she wants pamphlets when they are published. one of the things -- she is considering the news at that time. -- consuming the news at that time. she begins -- by the middle 17 '70s, she is on board. >> what capacity? what is your political thinking? >> she was a revolutionary, she was very supportive. the fact that john was participating, they were partners. at some point, he writes to her eyes -- thanking her for being a partner. later on, i think she is more
9:09 pm
conservative than john in some ways when it came to national politics. >> we will be looking at some of her letters to about the program. a very famous one is -- was to remember the ladies. that is a letter that is of particular interest to you. why does that letter it significant in understanding abigail adams? >> the letter does many things. she wrote at night and she would enter a kind of rivalry in which she followed her thought pattern wherever she went. she changes topics in her letters. it starts out with a political statement about why the southerners favored slavery and
9:10 pm
are still doing a rebellion against the tyranny. and she questions that. and then she goes on and in the middle of a paragraph, remember the ladies. and then goes on further to suggest that if china did not like this idea -- if john did not like this idea, it was a remarkable thing because he was in a position to do something. he was on the committee that was drafting a declaration of independence. he could have made a move for women's rights. it is remarkable that she did suggest that. >> give us a sense of the role women have in society. they could not vote. how could women be influential? >> it is much more subtle. in the same way -- many times, a
9:11 pm
decision is made, people think that the husband makes the decision. there is a kitchen table discussion that goes on before that. in the adams household, there were a lot of kitchen table discussions between john and abigail. i the deal may not have been more -- most obvious -- at the domain not have been most obvious in making the decisions. we know much later after the revelation -- revolution that he is very influential. >> i want to tell you a little bit about what the country looks like in 1800. we have some statistics we will put on screen to give you some of the scope. by that point, john marshall went on to the supreme court.
9:12 pm
the population was 5.3 million across 16 states. .hey're run 990,000 blacks 5.3 million was a 35% growth in the country. the average life expectancy was 39 years. the largest cities were new york, philadelphia, baltimore. what are some of the things we should take away from those statistics? >> one of the things is there is an expansion going on. this is one of the things that is very difficult for the adams because politics are changing and changing politics means they are new englanders. as time goes by, as the
9:13 pm
population moved south and west, and makes it more difficult for politics they believe in. >> we will invite your telephone calls. i am told you want to read a passage. >> i would like to remark on the 39-year life span. that is not exactly accurate to the extent that children died much more rapidly. if a child survived to 12, a life span was much longer. >> the five children, how many of them survive to adulthood? >> four. >> you wanted to read from the letter we talked about earlier? >> in this particular letter, she was ruminating about
9:14 pm
conditions in her life and what was going on in her world. i would like to hear that you have declared independence. by the way, i desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. which is a bold and remarkable statement for a woman to of made in that era. >> the relationship we have seen, would it have been a surprising thing for her to say? >> we're back to the kitchen table. i am sure that before he rode off to philadelphia, she filled this year with a lot of ideas along the way. john and his response knows that there are several groups of people, servants, slaves, also moved during this time to think
9:15 pm
about their rights and their independence. >> what was your viewpoint on slavery? >> she was opposed to slavery. she had a servant, a black servant, who had been a slave of for fathers. i think the woman -- what was the story? did she have the right to be free after -- i cannot remember. >> abigail cared for her for the rest of for life. she lived in their house. >> how did they manage to work the farm? what kind of labour did they use? >> they did have hired laborer.
9:16 pm
it became very problematic for abigail. i want to go back to the letter. you mentioned john's response and what she does in this letter in addition to saying, why is it that southerners can support our revolution when they keep people in slavery? remember the ladies -- and then she says, if you do not pay attention to this, rebellion. and then it goes on further to say that you should treat us the same way that god treats people. in this one letter, she brings up so many ideas. i would suggest that her indicative of one of
9:17 pm
the ways the adams related to each other. his response to her was '80s also. it sounds to me that every group is going to make a revolution. -- her response to her was a tease also. one of the ways in which they're related, it seems to me. >> how did they meet each other? >> they met at her father's house. he went as a dinner guest with a lifelong friend. he then married the elder sister. abigail was not yet to 15 at that time john was not enthusiastic about her at first.
9:18 pm
a pyramid, things changed over the years. -- apparently, things changed over the years. he was 9 years older than her. >> he had a girlfriend at the time. >> he was about to propose to this woman and one of his friends burst in and broke the mood and she went off and married somebody else. >> he was a lawyer. would that have been a profession that her family would have appreciated? >> the family lore suggest that it was not. her family disapproved of for meriting a lawyer. -- of kurt marry in a lawyer. >> was john political at that point? >> no one knew about the revolution.
9:19 pm
all of this is happening when there is no revolution. there is no revolution on the horizon. he was interested in politics. >> his trajectory was to be a lawyer in massachusetts. he was following that line. >> it is important to know because these to marry -- these two were married for 54 years. they were great partners. even though it was not a love match in the beginning, it grew to become one. >> we will show this to you next. >> what is so appealing about the family series is the intimacy that the letters reveal the earliest letter we
9:20 pm
have dates to october 1762. we call it the miss adorable letter. it was john reiskin to abigail -- writing to abigail. i hereby order you to give him as many kisses and as many hours of your company after 9:00 at sea shall please to demand. and charge them to my count. i presume i have good right to draw upon you for the kisses as i had given two or three millions that least. the accounts between us is immensely in favor of yours. very teasing affectionate tones. wonderful moments.
9:21 pm
>> fun to bring these founding fathers, people that we see in these two-dimensional poses, come to life and have real personalities. these people enjoyed one another. >> this is one of the most appealing things about john and abigail. they have a life that you can follow because of the documents. you see them in good times and in bad. you see death and the family, you see triumph. it. "donwton abbey." -- it is like "downton abbey." >> brenda elliotts on twitter wants to know what you say she
9:22 pm
was the mother of women's rights in the united states? >> one of the things that we know is that women were aware of their subordinate role in the 18th century. because we have those letters, we know that she was not exemplary. her good friend was agreeing with her and a colleague. i think that one of the things we have learned in the women's movement is that we can trace the movement for women's rights back further and further in history. she happens to be an outstanding example because she left us letters that say these things. she was also very eloquent.
9:23 pm
she was a wonderful writer. >> this telephone call comes from new york city. >> good evening. she certainly was one of the first great american female writers, she was also a poor mother. another son committed suicide. >> what she a good mother? >> yes, a very good mother. we live in a post-freudian world in which when something goes wrong inside of a family, the mother gets the blame. the children were living through a revolution. their father was not at home for 25 years. she was doing it all by herself. she was coping in a situation which was extraordinary. i think that applying 21st
9:24 pm
century standards to mothering and even the psychology that has developed in the early -- early 20th-century does not fly for the 18th century. >> mary is up next from california. >> thank you for taking my call. i am interesting in finding out the relationship between abigail and thomas jefferson. did they correspond during jaunts year of not speaking to each other? i've also heard that abigail had an intimate relationship with him as far as correspondents went. >> they were very good friends at one time. the highest point of the relationship was when abigail was in france and then in england and thomas jefferson was
9:25 pm
a diplomat abroad at that time. for a while, while jefferson was in paris and she was in london, they kept accounts for one another. at one point, one of jefferson's daughters came from virginia and stopped in london and abigail took care of for during that time. during the national period it when -- after the election of 1800, the relationship really fell apart. it was over politics. during that time, abigail was very disappointed with jefferson. >> next up is not in wisconsin. >> -- matt in wisconsin. >> i was wondering what some of the intellectual influences on
9:26 pm
her writing was. >> thank you. did she have influences? >> she was a great leader. -- reader. she read the bible. >> when we do the research on her letters, if she is quoting somebody or citing somebody, we want to identify who is. sometimes, she does not use quotation marks. i would say the things she quoted most often were things that she referenced with shakespeare, the bible, the classics. >> this next call is from quincy, massachusetts. >> hello.
9:27 pm
congratulations on having this wonderful series on the first ladies. i live in quincy, mass. and we are very lucky see and experience the adam's life of close every day. my comment would be about abigail sentiment about remembering the ladies. i think she pretty much -- women can change destinies, of nations and the world if they said their mind to it. it is very important because women are the primary factors in breeding of the children.
9:28 pm
-- in bringing up the children. she was instrumental in the constitution and the forming of this nation. quincey is actually called the birthplace of the american dream. she may not be formally recognized, but she definitely had a very important role in shaping women's place in this country and in history. >> thank you. the caller was from quincey. we will taking next to the quincey home as they prepared to tell you the story of the revolutionary times. >> the story of abigail lagens
9:29 pm
-- abigail adams is a story of sacrifice and commitment to country. for the first 10 years, they lived in this column, from 1764-1774. it is where they raise their four children. this is the birthplace of their second child, john quincy adams, who went on to become president of the united states. the primary link between she and john adams would be a letter writing. it was from this house that he was provided a window into what was happening back here in the colony of massachusetts. she would report to john about the militia in boston. during the battle of bunker hill, should to occur at sun -- she took her son and she would watch the battle of bunker hill
9:30 pm
with her son and reports about the fires and smoke. she was the eyes of the revolution to john adams and the second continental congress in philadelphia. we are in need in the parlor, we're at the hub of the classroom and during the war, one must remember, the schools were closed down and the children did not benefit from a formal education and it was up to abigail to teach them the lessons, not only arithmetic and french but also morality, literature and what was going on in the revolutionary war. she was their primary educator here in this home and this is the room where many of those lessons would have taken place. she reported to john adams during the revolution at one point, she began to take up the works of ancient history and having john quincy read her at least two pages a day.
9:31 pm
i don't know if anyone ever read rollins history, but for a 7-year-old boy to accomplish this he had a very good ininstructor in abigail adams. in the occupation of boston, there were many refugees leaving from boston out into the country and needed a place to live. ever the patriot, abigail adams wanted to open the home next door, john adams' birthplace for these refugees. she rented out the house to a farmer maimed mr. hayden and his son and would provide assistance to abigail on the farm here. she reported to john in one of the letters that she met with some very ill treatment and asked mr. hayden to share his house with the refugees but he refused. by the time abigail received a response from john adams, like many things, she had solved the problem herself and reported to john later. she had taken care of the problem and paid mr. hayden to leave the premises, therefore providing the opportunity for her to house refugees fleeing from boston. there are troops marching in her yard practicing their
9:32 pm
maneuvers in preparation for war. she reports to john that young john quincy is out behind the house marching proudly behind the militia. at one point, there were militia living in the upstairs attic and also the second floor. she welcomed these militia men to her home in support of the revolutionary war with her actions. >> the adams life and trajectory of it put them in the biggest events of the founding days of our country and we have a time line of some of the key times in the adams' life and that we all learned in our history books. you see 1744 when she was born and married john adams 20 years later. soon after that the stamp act then in 1770, the boston massacre and that will go on, as you're watching that time line, i wanted to ask edie about how endangered the adams' family were living in the midst
9:33 pm
of this preparation for war and being sympathizers against the existing government. >> for the first decade of their marriage, abigail and john lived together, it was during this decade the events happened that the events escalated towards war. so this was a kind of simultaneous parallel occurrence at the personal level and then the more global political level. during this period of time there wasn't danger. there was danger once lexington and concord happened, once there was fighting in the massachusetts bay area, yes, there was danger. and more than that, they didn't know if there would be danger. they never knew where the next troop deployment was going to happen. so she was ready at any minute to move away from the house, to move inland, to take her children and bring them to safety.
9:34 pm
>> how much during those critical years, how much time was she alone while john adams was off working on the foundations of the government? >> oh, my goodness, from 1774 until 1784 they were apart most of the time. he came home a couple times for a couple months but during that time, she was alone on the farm by herself bringing up the children. >> and she was writing these letters explaining the situation. how concerned was he about his family back in massachusetts? >> i think he was very concerned. there's one sort of heart-wrenching period where she's pregnant and she's writing right up until the time she begins labor and because of the time and distance, which is something that's so hard for us to understand now with our instant communication, he is writing hoping she's going to have a daughter and everything will be fine. in the meantime, she's -- the infant is born dead and she had
9:35 pm
a premonition this was going to happen. so while he's writing happily, joyfully, she has buried this child. so there's -- he knows that she's capable of doing almost anything that a woman or man could do during that time. but there is a certain helplessness on his part. he's so consumed by what he's doing there, but then reflects and he'll say kiss little tommy and johnny, and a lot of it is very emotional, very emotional. >> when war broke out, i read that she was so supportive of it, she would do things to help the effort by melting down pewter housewares, plates and cups so they could be made into bullets. was that very common for the people at the time? >> sure. sure. people were doing that all
9:36 pm
together. yes. and -- i'm going to pass on that. >> let's take a couple more calls as we learn more about the revolutionary years of the adamses. next is a call from denise from rochester, michigan. you're on. >> hello. i'd like to know if the series from hbo that john adams was reflective in any way of how things really were in her life in the sense of family and everything? i know they didn't go deep into that. but also, i'd like to know, when you talk about five kids, was that the baby who died? and was that correct about the man, the son drinking to death? thank you. >> thank you very much. >> first the hbo mini series which brought the adams to the forefront for a lot of contemporary americans. >> i think it was good history. there were -- part of it was drama, also. so you have to understand in order to make it appealing, it
9:37 pm
was a little license was taken but generally it was pretty good history. >> on the children, there's a tweet to add to that caller's question, abigail raised children 25 years alone while john adams was busy, while a woman of steel. so that caller asked about the five children and did it include the child who died? >> the child who died was the third child, born before charles. there was abigail jr. and then there was john quincy and abby and there was john quincy and then there was a third child named suzannea who lived only a year. and there is very little reference to this child. in the correspondence. we know very little about it. and then abigail was pregnant at the time of the death of susana. and her third child charles was then born. at the end of her life when her daughter-in-law lost a child and the daughter-in-law was at
9:38 pm
the time in st. petersburg, louisa katherine, abigail wrote to her. for the first time i've seen in the correspondence, maybe you've seen it, she made a reference to having lost a baby daughter. it was a closed topic. >> and the caller also wanted to know about the son who was an alcoholic and died of the disease. >> charles. people did not know about alcoholism in those days and it was considered sinful. it was not considered a disease. charles is throughout the correspondence treated as a person who was sensitive, from the earliest years he was sensitive. he went to europe with his father and john quincy in 1779, and he had to come back because he was homesick. and thereafter, every reference about him is that he was a sweet child, a very pleasant child. but also fragile and may have gotten into some trouble when he was in hartford.
9:39 pm
his life was irregular. >> you know from the correspondence between abigail and her sisters, for example, that they kind of kept an eye on him. because there was a problem. and it's never fully discussed as a young man. >> right. >> and i think one of the things that was difficult for abigail was that her brother was an alcoholic, also, and had left his family. >> right. >> this viewer on twitter says abigail adams sounds most like eleanor roosevelt of our first lady. if she had been born at a later age, would she have been active as miss eleanor roosevelt. can you speculate? >> it's hard to suggest -- yes. she certainly would. she had all the attributes of a very dynamic woman who is opinionated and would have had her own goals to pursue and would have been very, very influential. she was very influential in the presidency, we know. >> in fact, along historians, and there have been four surveys of historians over the
9:40 pm
decade, abigail adams comes in the number two or three position as most influential. why is that? >> who would be number one? >> eleanor. >> really? who would be two? >> she was two three of the four times. why does she end up in the number two spot? >> well, i think part of the problem is there's a distance in time and people still have other images. people know -- who are still alive who knew eleanor roosevelt and she's modern. there's the same thing if you did a survey now, jacqueline kennedy would probably be rate much higher because people know and really liked her at that time. abigail, the only thing we have from abigail are the letters. >> and she's still in the number two spot. that's not bad. she seemed throughout this 200 year spectrum of being the second most influential among
9:41 pm
first ladies based on the letters you've been spending your career looking at. >> i think also if you see her influence on her husband, i don't know that there were many -- there have been many first ladies that have had that kind of influence. >> but with a specific example of an important policy that you see that she really worked on him. >> i don't know of a particular policy, it's that he consults her all the time. she talks -- her letters at a certain point are divided into two things, this is what's happening with the children. this is what's happening on the farm, here are my thoughts about politics. and she shared all the time. and i think by the time he got to be president, and he was not popular with his party, she was his major advisor. >> while we're talking about letters, here's another in a video piece of a letter, abigail to john, focused on virginia. >> remember the lady's letter
9:42 pm
is a letter everyone knows and associates with abigail adams. i think what is lesser known and what is fascinating about the letter is that the remember the lady's comments comes quite far down in the letter and the first section of her letter to john is questioning and voicing her concerns about virginia's role in the revolutionary war. she writes, what sort of defense virginia can make against our common enemy, whether it is so situated as to make an able defense, are not the gentry lords and the common people vessels? are they not like the uncivilized natives britain represents us to be? and she continues, and probably one of her most pointed comments on slavery, i have sometimes been ready to think
9:43 pm
the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breaths of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs. of this i am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and christian principle of doing to others as we would that other shoes do unto us. >> how influential was this opinion about enslaved people on john adams' thinking? >> i think -- john adams had to be more practical. he's in congress. he's dealing with these people and he can't alienate them, he couldn't say -- maybe he could because he was a little outspoken. but he had to help hold this tone. -- together. it's easy to be a critic when you're not there. and i think throughout the first 60 years of the country, people had to tread softly in order to keep the union together. >> right. >> we're going to fast forward. the country is formed. the washingtons are elected
9:44 pm
president and are serving in new york and then philadelphia. and john adams is vice president to the washingtons. how did he and abigail decide their household? did she move to new york? did she move to philadelphia? how did they arrange all that? >> she -- john was vice president for eight years. she moved to new york for one year, the first year, because it was the capital of new york for the first year. and she loved it. she had a beautiful house on the hudson overlooking the city of manhattan and overlooking new jersey shore, and she loved it. and she also was happy because her daughter lived nearby. then they moved to philadelphia. and she spent the entire year ill. it was not a good climate for her. and her health was always precarious. so she decided after that year in philadelphia, they decided
9:45 pm
together that she would stay at home. and there wasn't really a precedent for a first lady -- the second first lady, the vice president's wife to be living with the man. it was by choice martha did it. but abigail had the liberty to choose to go home, and she did for the next six years. >> on her illness, we learned last week the city of philadelphia was decimated at the start of the second washington term by yellow fever. 12% of the population died. did she have any illness related to that? >> no. >> what was her illness? >> very hard to tell all these years later. he describes symptoms, but it's hard to put a name on the symptoms. i don't know. >> they say rheumatism. >> she did have rheumatism but beyond that, the symptoms she describes are very hard to diagnose
9:46 pm
>> jim taylor, she was -- there was no role model for being the second lady at the time. but james spear asked by twitter did the newspapers at the time mention abigail? >> boy, i'm not really sure about that. they certainly mentioned john from time to time, although -- >> was she a national figure at that time? >> no, not at all. she was known because she had been the wife of the minister to great britain. one of the problems that they had was that people thought that they were monarchal, that they had been tainted by their time in europe. and i think this is one of the interesting things about abigail. she grows up a minister's daughter and at some point she's at versailles and the court of st. james, so she is an extraordinarily sophisticated person by that time, much more so than martha
9:47 pm
washington. martha washington was an american elite, abigail was international. >> and what of the relationship between martha washington and abigail adams? >> it was wonderful. abigail loved martha. she met her when she was the wife of the vice president and whenever they had social events, they were very close. and abigail wrote -- whenever she wrote about martha, which wasn't that much but when she did write about martha, it was in the most glowing terms. >> one of the things she did was that just after she knew that john was going to be elected, she wrote to martha washington asking her about how to be the first lady, about etiquette and how she would carry it. >> and martha wrote back and said, you know inside yourself how to behave. >> and we know that is a tradition that continues today for new incoming first lady, reach out to the people that
9:48 pm
served before to under the enormity of this task. here is call next. it is from ron in everett, washington. hi, ron. >> good evening. thanks for the program. thanks for taking my call. i've read one of the books and earlier works on john adams, but i still think the most comprehensive biography, although technically of john adams but really of them both, was one done more than half a century ago two volumes by paige smith. i think that really still stands out. and i wanted to get your comments on that. >> i think no one writes about john adams today without consulting paige smith. he is the foundation for writing about. and remarkable to me because the adams papers had just been opened to the public at the
9:49 pm
time when he started writing his book and yet it's so thoroughly researched. >> it was the first thing i read in graduate school. it was my introduction to john adams. >> the caller was nice enough to mention some of your books and we want to show some of them because we're hoping along the way people will be intrigued enough to read more. here is one, be gail adams, a writing life, "abigail and john, a portrait of a marriage." and here on the screen, "my dearest friend, the letters of abigail and john adams." this is one of your books here. are these letters approachable for the everyday person? can you just dive right in and get a sense of this person? >> yes. you might need a little historical context to understand a few of the things they're alluding to but the letters are personal and in some ways are timeless because it talks about problems that people have today, concerns that people have today, not the political context but the intimatecy -- intimacy of the
9:50 pm
letters. >> i would add, first of all, your book is excellent because of the footnoting and you do take people into it. also, abigail's letters have been in print and she's been read since 1840 when her grandson first published an edition of her letters which went through four editions in the 1840's. and it was -- she was a bestseller through the 19th century people knew her. she's always been famous. for her letters. >> i won't be able to find the tweet as quickly as i need to right now but someone did ask the question, did the adamses ever think about their letters being published? and do you have any sense of -- >> as early as 1776, john is telling her to put the letters up, to keep them. and i think at a certain point, there's almost a consciousness in some of the -- particularly his letters. they know at a certain point, and i don't know when they
9:51 pm
doctors that threshold, that they're important. and at that point -- it's one of the reasons the family saves letters. early on, it's emotion with the miss adorable letter and things like that. but after a while, their letters extend from 1762 to 1801, almost 40 years, the most important 40 years in american history. >> and they understood they were players in it and that they were writing for the ages. >> right. i believe so. >> this is a tweet from big john 9981 who said last week you mentioned that martha did not like john adams. how did this affect the relationship between martha and abigail? >> i don't know that that's true. >> i think what we said was that abigail and martha's friendship helped facilitate the relationship between washington and adams when they were trying to understand what a president and vice president might do. did you see evidence for that? >> i think john and george
9:52 pm
washington got along pretty well all the time. and john adams was extraordinarily supportive of washington and was personally injured when some of the press turned on washington. couldn't believe it. this is one of the things. martha and george were a hard act to follow and they knew they were going to be difficult. >> we will move into the years of their one term presidency. before that video, it's a time when in one of your books you called it a splendid -- using abigail adams' word, a splendid misery being in the white house. explain what that phrase meant? >> it meant that they -- it was splendid in that they were at the pinnacle of his political career and her career. i mean, they had risen to the top. and it was nothing but trouble. and agonizing trouble from the very beginning.
9:53 pm
at very first, john was enthusiastic about becoming president and abigail said, well, i'm going to say in -- stay in quincy because i have things to do and she was taking care of john's mother and said i won't be there until october. he said that's fine, you don't have to come until october. and then once he was in the presidency, he discovered it was the loneliest place in the world and he started writing letters, drop everything that you're doing, come here. i need you immediately. and she did. >> i think one of the interesting things, one of the reasons she was hesitant about it is she said i like to be outspoken, i like to speak my peace and she knew in that context she couldn't. but when she was in quincy, she could. >> where she was in quincy at the time was a house they built together called peace field. let's take a look at it. >> in 1777, be gail realized they had outgrown their cottage at the foot of penns hill and
9:54 pm
began to negotiate through her cousin cotton tuft and began to purchase the house they enjoyed. they enjoyed tranquility at this home and christened their home peace field. two rooms in the first and three smaller bedrooms on the third floor and a small kitchen the back of the house. essentially there were about 7 1/2 rooms to this home. this was john and abigail's home base. before becoming first lady, abigail would spend nine years in this house. the first year, she essentially was setting up the house after just returning from europe. she had remembered this house as one of the grand houses in quincy, but her perception of grand had changed since living in europe. she began right away making plans to enlarge the house. she wanted to improve upon the size and the height of the ceilings and the size of the space. she would in fact write to her daughter warning her not to wear any of her large feathered hats because the ceilings were
9:55 pm
too low. she began working with an architect to enlarge the size of the home, in effect doubling the size, adding a long hall and long entertainment room where she'd receive her guests. with regard to the architecture outside and the flow of the home, she had the builder dig down so they could lower the floors and get the high ceilings she desired without disrupting the architecture on the outside of the house. you step down two steps and you're in a whole different world. a typical day for abigail would be to rise at 5:00 a.m. she had many chores to do. much of her time here was spent tending the farm, taking care of the orchard, and taking care of the house. but she also loved those early morning hours to spend by herself, preparing herself for the day, but most importantly, having a chance to indulge in one of her novels. although this is a presidential home, it is the home of a
9:56 pm
family. and abigail, instead of having servants doing all the work for her, even as a first lady, she would also be contributing to the kitchen and the running of the household. this is something she continued throughout her life no matter what her position was. she was very involved. she had children and grandchildren visiting her here and it was a very active and lively household. she also spent a great deal of her time writing because again, their miss fortune, john and abigail in being apart was our fortune. in one letter when he's asking her to come to philadelphia, abigail would write of the room she was in and the window and the view that she saw. the beauty which unfolds outside of the window at which i now write tempts me to forget the past, an indication that while abigail was back here at peace field she was on a new beginning as a first lady of the united states, as the wife of the president, and also still a mother. she would describe life here at peace field so romantically that john adams would reply in
9:57 pm
one of his letters, oh, my sweet little farm, what i would do to enjoy thee without interruption. >> of the four years of the adams presidency, how much time did abigail spend at peace field versus the capital? >> she became ill in 1798 and went home and had to stay there for an extended time. and john actually followed her and he stayed there, for too long, according to his cabinet members who finally urged him to come back to philadelphia, which was then the capital. but -- she tried to stay there for as much time as she could but again, her health caused her to be at home and she was quite ill for close to a year. and possibly close to death during that time. >> how did he serve as chief executive from afar? >> this also happened during the vice-presidency when congress wasn't meeting, the
9:58 pm
vice president would go back to wherever he lived, and i think that the president, especially during the summer, they would usually leave in the spring and come back in the fall. it was like a seasonal thing. although he did overdo it a little bit during this time. so it was not unusual for the president to be away at that time. >> these were very trying and them petchueous -- tempetuous years. cue tell us what was happening during the adams administration, the key policy issues and how it was faring on the world stage? >> the problems were international and there were internal political rifts and you have during this time the creation of political parties in america, the two-party system. but we had problems with the french, we had problems with the british and we had particular problems with the french. the american political parties were divided pro-frefrpbl and
9:59 pm
pro-british and one of the things john was troubled with during this time was keeping the country out of war. and he was successful. and i think that's probably the thing that he should be most recognized for during the period. >> and i also find it ironic that he's one president who kept us out of war, avoided war because the revolution could have -- and the united states would have collapsed in a second war with britain. >> and would have gone to war at the drop of a hat. >> they were ready to go to war at the drop of his hat and he avoided it and also averted his career. the politicians at the time were maybe like politicians forever, enjoying the exercise of making war. and they were very close to war. and the population, in general, was outraged by the piracy that was going on. american ships were being taken on the seas and american
10:00 pm
diplomats were being badly treated in france especially. the french revolution had happened. john adams, as jim said, kept us out of war. >> we have a few key dates and a very historic four years of the adams administration, 1797-1801, and a small point for those of you who don't follow early american history, presidents then were inaugurated in march. now the date in january is familiar to us now but march to march was the time frame. and you can see things chief justice john marshall selected. i want to go back to the passage of the alien and sedition act. adamis the view of both ses on this?
10:01 pm
>> some people thought we were about to be overrun by french revolutionaries and the a were influencing people in america. there were rumors that cities would be burned. it was terrorism they were anticipating. for example, the opposition party, the democratic republican party was very enthusiastic about the french and some of the ideals of the french revolution. >> jefferson in particular. >> this is where they begin to go in different directions. also, some of the press is very vehement in their criticism of the administration. so they muzzled the press and said that this is probably the
10:02 pm
thing that john adams is most criticized for. abigail, i believe, supported john. abigail was even more vehement during i think she is even more conservative than john during that time. >> the upshot of this, the people who were breaking the alien and sedition acts -- >> you could be jailed . >> it was said that the press made things up. he had no standards. it was not the they were supporting the french, but they were making up stories that were not the truth europe adams was very seriously worried about this. jefferson -- that were not the
10:03 pm
truth. adams was very seriously worried about this. jefferson felt that the states should be passing the alien and sedition laws. he was very much in favor of the states. at that time, people did not have the same or about suppressing the press that we have today. >> it was in the heat of the moment. rex right. >> stephen from chicago. >> they say history repeats itself. i was wondering if there any presidents and first ladies or first couples that most resemble or are analogous of the adams is -- of the adamses? is that the relationship standard?
10:04 pm
>> i hope you will take that question. [laughter]>> there was no one else like abigail and john. first of all, we don't have the insight into anybody else's lives. these letters were recently revealed. todon johnson's love letters lady bird were revealed. but there is nothing like the abigail and john exchange. [laughter]>> it is when they are situated in such a important time and there were so many players in so many stages. that is what sets them apart. this is from twitter. >> people came by, but not so
10:05 pm
much during the presidency. there is a time when john is really quite ancient. and it is some time at your abigail has passed. cadets from west point came and they had a band and they played and marched and they were served punch and john adams gave a talk -- a patriotic talk to the troops. occasionally, people would come by. but they did not entertain in the sense of politically entertaining. it was family for the most part. >> at mount vernon and the washingtons, they seem to be constantly be welcoming people to their house. >> people wanted to be close to the president. social standards would different than. and standards of hospitality were different. if someone came to your door,
10:06 pm
you just didn't turn them away. although they might like to have done so. >> they continue to read letters during the time they were separated? >> she did. when she is with john, it isn't that she's at writing letters. she is writing letters to other people. while he was president, two of their children were in europe on a diplomatic mission. so there are a lot of letters between thomas boylston and john quincy adams to their parents, especially to abigail, and she writes to her sister. she writes wonderful letters to her sisters who were back in acid usage and new hampshire. >> -- who were back in massachusetts and new hampshire. >> i have been much diverted with little occurrence and it shows how little founded in nature the so much posted notion of liberty and equality is.
10:07 pm
neighbor paxon came in and requested to speak to me. his errand was to inform me that, if james went to school, it would rick at the school because the other lads refused to go. why, mr. paxton? has the boy misbehaved? there was no problem at that time. they refused to go to school with a black wife. it continues on in this vein saying that they allowed him to play at the dance and they would still go. and she closes this section saying, "the boy is a free man as much as any of the young men. and as because his face is black he is not to be denied instruction.
10:08 pm
is this the way we would have done to others as we would have done to us? >> she is hoping to influence his thinking. how concerned was he with rights and equality's at his point in his presidency? >> it is a little different thing. this is jean who she is talking about, who it is -- who is an adams servant. james was a special person to abigail. one abigail goes to philadelphia a few months after this, john goes don't bring james. he didn't want blacks in philadelphia as his servant. not really clear why, but i think he sensed that they could be corrupted. her were much fewer blacks in massachusetts. and there were more blacks and
10:09 pm
slaves in philadelphia. -- don'ton't have them have him come beyond th new yor. he says, you have a beat him. i think she taught him to read. i don't know that she was instructing john adams so much on this as that she was showing her love and affection for james as an individual regardless of his race. >> here is something from our viewers. it looks like she is quoting a letter from john to abigail. do you have any thoughts on that that's -- on that? >> it is a wonderful quote.
10:10 pm
they had no idea there would be a war. they may have suspected there would be a war. they had no idea of its duration or that it would separate the colonies. we would have to go back and view it from their point of view. he is saying we don't know what is going to happen. >> we said at the outset that she was criticized by the press who sometimes used the phrase to describe her as mrs. president. what is the context of that reference? >> the context is the spirit is -- these. press at the time. he was the american minister to great attend. she was accustomed to happen --
10:11 pm
she was accustomed to having those relations with the press. >> did she complain to family members about this? was she hurt by the way she was treated in the press? >> i think she was more defensive about her husband. abigail did not have great ambition for herself, but she had great ambition for john and for boys. but particularly for john quincy adams. and she was very defensive of them. i think this is one of the reasons why the relationship with jefferson is so difficult because she had really loved thomas jefferson as a friend and she believed jefferson turned on her husband. rex how did she express herself -- >> how did she express her support of her husband? >> she went there.
10:12 pm
she was with him all of the time. when he needed her, she was there. >> was there an avenue for her to respond to the press? >> not that i can think of. her avenues to responding to the press was that she was in favor of the sedition laws. she liked the idea of curtailing the press. >> let's take our next phone call from oka raton, florida. >> good program. thank you for taking my call. i am a member of the press. for two colors tonight kind -- to callers tonight kind of insinuated that she was not a good matter. i believe john quincy was a leading abolitionist and here we are following american history. whether it is the kkk doing
10:13 pm
their thing in the south today, the john birch society, the tea party now which is 97% caucasian, can we at least give abigail -- throw her a bouquet of roses and say that she might have influenced john quincy in terms of the color of a man's skin should not be placed -- >> john quincy lived with her until he was 11 years old. then he went to europe with john. she did not see him again until he was 17 or 18. so he became a man. >> under the tutelage of his father. >> but she was very influential in the first 11 years. i balk at this tendency to blame the mother every time something goes wrong with the children. circumstances happen.
10:14 pm
there are genes. there is possibly a genetic disposition to alcoholism in that family. abigail's brother died of it and there were apparently other family members. a revolution happened when her children grew up. they grew up in wartime. that can be very damaging to children's psyches. >> the year 1800 was a very, very difficult year for the adamses. a campaign for reelection hard- fought. thomas jefferson, he lost that good the year that he moved to the white house. and they also lose theirs -- they also lost their son. let's talk about the decision to run for office again. did abigail support this?
10:15 pm
>> we don't have as much as we had in the decision for the previous election where they agonized over it. it went back and forth. there are letters -- should i or shouldn't i? i don't have as much of that for the second term. part of it was, because by this time the political parties were so strong, he felt he didn't want the other party in. he wanted to follow through with what he was doing. even though there were several bad things happening around or to the adams family during that time, actually, in 1800, he had one of his great successes. the convention with the french that ended the undeclared war. >> i would also emphasize that
10:16 pm
the political parties were not written into the constitution. and washington and adams both and many of the people around them did not anticipate political parties. they thought they had a constitution. they had a government. everybody would agree to it would be harmonious. it did not work out that way. and it was a surprise to them. it was a surprise to adams that there was so much dissension during his administration. >> they lived the last four months of his administration as occupants of the white house. it looks pretty miserable. what was life like in the mansion for the adamses ? >> it was pretty miserable. they didn't have heat. they had to gather wood in that area. the mansion was not finished
10:17 pm
when they moved in. abigail describes georgetown as a swamp. the city was not yet built. they moved in before there was a proper white house. also, i think it affected the way she entertained. it affected her entire role as for slater -- first lady. what she could do in that drafty, cold, incomplete house. >> it must have been shared misery by the members of congress who were arriving in the city. >> most of them lived in rooming houses and boarding houses. it was seasonal. congress came and went. there weren't a lot of people who lived year-round in washington at that time. >> we have this graphic we have been showing of laundry being hung inside the white house.
10:18 pm
did that really happen? >> i don't know here in >> i don't either. it sounds like abigail [indiscernible]>> it would not have been a good place to drive -- to dry laundry because it was drafty and cold. >> we talked about charles dying. anymore on how that affected her and the death of the sun in that turbulent year? >> it was a terrible heartache for her and for him. >> he did write to jefferson in later years that it was the greatest grief of my life. >> jan from boise. >> thank you for putting on this series. i am curious about what role religion played in her life given that her father was a pastor.
10:19 pm
my sense is that john was raised with more calvinist bent, but was more unitary as an older man. what about abigail? >> thank you for that question. abigail was a very religious woman. she was so religious that, in times of turbulence, when things went wrong in her life, she thought it was a case of punishment. there was an epidemic urine for years when john was over -- there was an epidemic during the years when john was away. she truly believe that life was providential. her letters continually reference the bible. i think that, when things got added in her life, she became -- got bad in her life, she became more religious and more and serve it is religion -- and
10:20 pm
more conservative religion. >> we continue our series about the first lady's. when john adams realized he lost the presidency, how did he take it? how did abigail take it? >> by the time the electoral vote was counted, they very well knew that he would not be elected. i think they were disappointed. one of the things that johnson throughout his public life was that he would always retire, that he would always go back the farm and retire. he loved the farm. in that sense, it wasn't so bad. but i think it was the defeat of the ideas and what some people refer to as the revolution of 1800, because it was such a revelation -- it was such a
10:21 pm
dramatic change in the other party coming in. he did not attend the in migration. some thought he was being spiteful. he had to catch an early touch -- an early stage to get back. part of it was a man who, in a sense, he felt the trade him and defeated him. i think that was probably the hardest thing to get >> the couple that's been so many years apart and the development of their country and now had this opportunity to live together, how long did they live together in the white house years? >> abigail lived to 1818. he lived together for 18 years. >> how was it for them? >> they were right deal it for them and very difficult -- they were idyllic for them and very difficult in some ways. abigail refused to visit her
10:22 pm
daughter because she said i can't leave john. during that time, her daughter had a mastectomy in 1811 without anesthesia. >> that is so hard to think of. >> she ultimately died two years later. it was a time of satisfaction and peace and also very great disruptions in their lives. they had problems with grandchildren and children and constant drama going on. one grandson went and fought in the revolution in venezuela and they had to bail him out. or not bail him out. john refused to bail him out there >> they had some financial difficulties during there was a bank failure that their son had
10:23 pm
invested in. but this is when it sounds like "downtown abbey of me -- " downtown abbey." >> the daughter had a terrible husband and they were terribly worried about her. >> from the perspective of your life's work and the letters, they were together. they start writing letters at that point? >> they stopped writing letters to each other. but they wrote letters to others. >> was more prolific? >> john quincy adams is frequently away on diplomatic assignments or would later be secretary of state. he was in washington and a senator and at sort of thing. abigail has a sister who lives in new hampshire at that time.
10:24 pm
i think mary krantz is her favorite, her older sister. they lived allegedly nearby so there was not a lot of correspondence. >> she was close to her granddaughter caroline. so there is correspondence between her and this young girl. >> when john quincy goes to europe, he meets his wife. what was the relationship between the two adams women? >> i think lisa cochran was quite shocked by the culture he knew in length after having had a rather genteel upbringing in england and entrance and was quite shocked by the people and the customs. even trichet tendency. >> -- even church attendance. >> when she went to the old house, she said it was like going to noah's ark. >> we have a closing video, "a return to peace field."
10:25 pm
>> abigail enjoyed 17 years of retirement here at sealed with her husband john adams. here, the old couple could dote on their children and grandchildren and enjoy the peace and tranquility that this place offer them throughout their lives. the president that -- the president's bedroom was inviting, sunny and right. abigail enjoyed many hours in this room writing to her friends, writing to her emily, enjoying the time with her husband. on october 27, 1818, abigail passed away from typhoid fever. she was 74 years old and john adams had lost his dearest friend. the only way he could find comfort was in the 10. he would pen a letter to thomas jefferson, leading jefferson know that he had lost a dear friend and he would say to his family, if only i could lie down beside her and die, too.
10:26 pm
>> can you talk about john adams life in the years after abigail died? >> john was surrounded by family. so he was not isolated. he had always is hostess and caretaker a niece who had lived with them for most of her life. grandchildren came and children came. there was always traffic through the house and people came and militia came from boston, as you said. so there was a lot going on during those years. he was quite policy. he couldn't write his own letters. -- he was quite palsy. he couldn't write his own letters. he kept this incredible correspondence with jefferson in those years. >> culminating with the two of them finally coming to peace
10:27 pm
and dying together on the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence, july 4, which is really quite an amazing piece of american history. there is a question here about whether or not there is a lead line still living for john and abigail. >> oh, yes. why don't you respond to that? >> there were several messages. the historical society and the addams family have been close over the centuries. the adams family association have more than a hundred members. we were joking about it we frequently get questions from people thinking, believing that they are related or a descendent of john and abigail. some of them may be, but there are many more descendents than we think are possible.
10:28 pm
>> the name is lost because women marry out. >> stephanie, you will be our final western. >> -- our final question. >> what became of her children after she died very young? did they remain with the adams at peace field? >> they were adults when they died. the daughter caroline was married at the time. and son was also an adult. so there were no small children. >> our last video of abigail's death at peace field. all right, we don't have that during we have a very little bit of time left.
10:29 pm
in bringing this. before people who have been introduced to abigail adams tonight, what is the -- in bringing this fold circle, for people who have been introduced to abigail adams tonight, what is the take away? >> as we think that to the american revolution, her letters provide the only insights we have of the revolution at a sustained level during that entire period of the revolution and the national period. she talks about women's lives at the time and what it was like to be america's first lady and not just the wife of an american mr. -- an american minister, but to be a wife and a daughter. >> the thing that i always think about with abigail is the relationship, the partnership. relationship, the partnership.

71 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on